Miriam Chapman and Kathleen Lafferty

Recorded September 12, 2008 Archived September 12, 2008 01:23:12
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBX004330


Kathleen interviews her mother Miriam about her childhood.

Subject Log / Time Code

Used to play baseball outside and a game called “catch and release”
Once when on the frozen river when she was not supposed to, she thought she was going to get spanked so she put on all her underwear.
Her mother had pinned up poems by the sink for the girls to memorize while washing dishes. Miriam recites a poem.
She liked boys, always had boyfriends through high school.
Miriam has a hearing deficiency. She talks about how which birds she can hear.
She remembers killing a chicken. She has never been scared of blood which makes her a good nurse.


  • Miriam Chapman
  • Kathleen Lafferty


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00:03 Hi, I'm Kathleen Lafferty Kathleen Miriam Lafferty and I am today 52 years old. It is September 12th 2008. We are in Springfield, Massachusetts in the storycorps mobile van and I am interviewing my mother Miriam Chase Chapman.

00:23 I am Miriam Chase Chapman age 85 years and I am so it is September 13th. 12 only child. Yes 2008, Springfield, Mass.

00:42 I wanted to start mom maybe talking about what it was like when you were a child and what your childhood was. Like, I know you have lots of good stories. And you remember a lot. What did you look like when you were little I was born I was 9 lb and I look quite healthy at the time, but they thought I wasn't healthy. For some reason. I had a belly band on that was too tight and my grandmother came and loosened it up and the nurse had put it on too tightly. But after that I was fine and I grew up pretty well. Did you have brown hair when you were young or blond or what? Did you look like? My hair was Brown in the beginning at that, of course fell off and I became blond with green eyes.

01:38 Were you a happy kid? Sure. Yeah, we had a good household. It was a very nice place to be your what was your house like that house was like

01:50 A card when I was born. I was born in a tenement house in New Bedford Mass on the second floor. My parents had moved there after they were married. My mother had come from a farm and she did not like living in the city. Just looking down at black roofs. So they had moved to a brand new house in Dartmouth, Mass. And that's where we lived all of my growing years who was in that house with you my mother and father and my older brother Donald he was four years older than I

02:31 And then Dan at I had a sister to the years younger Priscilla and she was such a cute little baby. Who are you jealous of her? No. No, I had a good life. Now then your dad died when you were quite Young.

02:51 Well, we had a very good life up until when my father died. I was 11 years old. My father was only 42 and had a stroke and that was it so did life change then did he die at home? Yes. Did you know he was going to die beforehand? Yes. No, not really. He had been sick 6 months before with a straight stroke and some coronary problems and on May 7th. He did not feel good. Had a headache lay down on the couch and that evening he died.

03:38 That must have been awful for Grammy for your mom. Oh, my mother was 42. My father was 42. My mother was 43 when he died and they laid him out in the living room across those days. You did not take anybody to the funeral home.

04:03 And so they had the funeral and then we had the funeral in the funeral home, but he was in the living room they have for two or three days and we could not go to school. Of course. We had to stay home from school. It was spring and

04:23 Was his mother still alive when he died or know she had died before she died a month after I was born in 1923.

04:34 Go back when your dad was alive. What did you like to do for fun? We were we had a nice household, but after supper every night, we went out and played baseball and back feel. We've had a pickup game of baseball. And we also played a few of the games like most children. Do we play the game called release that I don't know of anybody else that played that but it was a good game one person.

05:14 Was stationed out of tree with their eyes closed and everybody ran to a different place and he did and then person that came Define your people they call release and then you could run again in high again and it it lasted all evening. Did you ever get in trouble?

05:38 Not much. I got in trouble a little bit by going out one night evening and talkin to some boys on the bicycle and my mother came after me and grabbed me by the ear and drag me home said I was supposed to be home by 8, and it was after 8, and I wasn't home.

06:02 TDM did you get spanked? Never know? We had a river behind a house it froze over in the winter time, and we were told not to go on the river until my Pala had tested it flowers. Well, my sister and I went on the river after school one day and we went home and my mother call and we went home and she said you wait till your father gets home.

06:35 We would be punished. Well, we went upstairs and we found every pair of Underpants we could find because we thought we were going to be spanked. But when my father came home, he took a singly into the living room to talk to us, and he mostly said about how dangerous it was on the river and we never got spanked at all. So we were prepared for nothing. Oboy and ice skater. Did he skate? Oh, yes. We are all skaters. What else did you do as a family did you travel at all or did you did you have a car when I thought I had a Model A first he had a Model T car and then he bought a model a car. That was a Ford Model A. And that was the only cow we had that he would come home from work and

07:35 Take us down to the beach.

07:39 It was about a 20-minute ride to the beach from my house down in padanaram and we will go for a swim after he got home from work.

07:50 We had a good life sounds like it was nice life. And then he died. Yeah, and then your mother was 43 with 390 friend at home a list 43 with three children and not much education and she didn't work as she had no word except at the farm her parents it expected her to stay home and cook for the Hyatt help, but she instead met my father and married so and moved New Bedford from Fall River.

08:30 So when my father died, she did not have any education but a friend of hers said you can cook. Well. Why don't you find out if there are any school teachers that would like a house to stay in a home to Borden so they went to the town hall and they asked if there were any school teachers that would like a place to live and they found two names and they could either called or wrote to them and we had two teachers come to live with us that fall. When was the economics teacher home economics teacher and the other one was a third-year.

09:15 College student taking the agricultural cuz he was a handsome man. And I was 12 years old. I thought he was wonderful.

09:28 But that's what happened. I household started to have.

09:33 Other people live with us So eventually we had a table at night with nine people around for supper.

09:42 And we always had a good conversation at the table. It was not any bickering of children. It was educational nice conversations something we could learn about and that's how I grew up. It sounds really nice. Did you have any relatives that you really liked her that we're special relatives any aunts or cousins or uncles or grandparents who you really liked? Oh, yes. We had a good family both on my mother's side and my father by many relatives came to see us and some stayed overnight because in those days are travel was not as easy as now.

10:30 They either came in their cars if they had a car around the trolley car and they might have stayed.

10:38 A few days and we had a special aunt and uncle my mother's sister and her husband who had no children at the time and they came to us every weekend and brought something to eat. They had a big farm in the summertime and they brought many vegetables, but my mother used to always kind of complain and say they never bring any meat.

11:09 But that's the way it was. We would like it. It will have them and they were very good to us. And this was during the Depression to a lot of this with a lot of your childhood was during the Depression. Yes, and that's why I think a lot of my generation of very frugal because they went through the depression.

11:32 And the Depression was when I was in second grade, I think was about 1930 to 1930 and there were other children in my class whose parents did not have any jobs and they went on the WPA and did things like that. My father had a job. He was a host salesman for wholesale groceries. And so he continued to have a job. We were very fortunate. But I remember they had we sometimes had a hole in the bottom of a shoe and you'd put a piece of cardboard in so that your feet wouldn't go through the bottom of your shoe. Some children didn't have any shoes.

12:28 We were very fortunate. Did your mother make your clothes? Oh, yes. She showed a lot and she needed and taught me how to knit and second grade and I taught my friends in second grade Houghton it and you still do any of those things now, I still want it. I still make Afghans and whatever. I know you made a lot of dresses for me and things when I was little and throwing up you seem to like to do that. I remember you could do anything but a collar you didn't like to do collars and I made a best for you with a lining once it was very difficult to make so I'm so as you were growing up you did you have hobos come by or where people out of work and and you know what, I mean when I was growing up,

13:28 We had a different people come up the street with food. That was karalekas the Greek man who came with fruit and vegetable truck. We had Duffy the ice Iceman. He came with a big chunk of ice on his back. He had a lot of best and he has a chunk of ice on the back and you will put that in a

13:54 Ice box the ice box has a tray on the bottom that collected water and it was up to the older brother any older Broadway in the family to take care of the water in that ice box on the bottom in the tray and if it ran over then that poor boy got a little

14:17 Scolding what were your chores my chores after my mother started to have borders. We had to do many many dishes. We had to cook we had to clean we had to

14:36 Iron

14:38 We had to iron sheets. My mother bought a man go rather. My father bought a man go for my mother and we learned I learned how to use a mangle and I and cheats and we had too many chores ordinary household chores to do you and your sister would do the dishes. Oh, yeah. Yeah. And do you remember you talked or did you sing or what did you do? The dishes dishes at the sink? My mother had pinned.

15:15 Poems on the

15:17 Curtain above the sink and we had to learn the point. We didn't have to but they were there and they were something like trees. I think that I could never see a poem as lovely as a tree. Another one. We had was daffodils. I wandered lonely as a cloud that looks on high O'er vales and Hills, you know that one. I don't know that one and all at once. I saw a crowd a host of golden daffodils so it goes on and on and that's what we did and we sang songs. We sang a song together my sister and I sort of duetting.

16:02 Singing I was waiting all My Little Ships Come Sailing home. And that was a good song. We still sing that icing that to myself every time I'm coming in on the boat across the island. That's nice. That's a good one.

16:18 So your dad died and your mom brought in borders men. Your brother went off to War. I imagine soon was World War. I not quite yet. My brother went to work in the same place. My father has worked in the office of a Wholesale grocery company the president the owner of that company became the president of the bank in New Bedford and he took my brother with him up to the bank.

16:53 And as a teller, and then he worked up until the Walking in the war. He volunteered and was taken into the yammy. He went in the Army to England to the Battle of bunt bulge and many other things, but he finally came home and 1945.

17:20 And what did you do in those War years? Well, I had become a high-school graduate and we had a school teacher at our house. It was very influential to me. What was her name? Her name was Louise Roycroft and she taught home economics, but she knew I wanted to be a nurse. I had always wanted to be a nurse from first grade on. I wanted to be a nurse. We had a school nurse come and look at heads.

17:55 Look for a date kill osis, and I thought she was very nice. She had a white uniform and she was very nice and I went home and said to my mother I want to be a head nurse.

18:10 That's not what has nurses really do is it so anyway As I Grew Older this school teacher kept influencing me to become a nurse and she took me to the hospital to take my first preliminary test, and she was very nice to me. And so I went and into st. Luke's Hospital.

18:40 In 19

18:43 And I see I graduated 1941 1941 and I was there for three years. How come only three years that's it was a three-year course.

18:56 We stayed over night. We stayed all the time and summer-long all the time three whole years, maybe one week vacation anyway.

19:12 Where was that? What hospital was that St. Luke's Hospital New Bedford, Massachusetts, and it was a three-year course and I had a everybody had a roommate with double rooms and my roommate was from Brooklyn New York, and we had a very good time together. It was hard work. We work 7 to 7 and with 3 hours off you might have off from 1 to 4, then go back to work from 4 to 7. You never got off on time. Everything was slower.

19:56 The hospitals were different, but we had a good education and people from Massachusetts could

20:09 Also work in any of the State of the Union along with New York State other states had to retake the whole test get their desertification kind of thing. You know, you had to go to Boston for your your big test. Yes. We had to go up to the

20:32 Whoever was in what happened after that test. Did you go to someplace with all of your girlfriend's? Yes, we didn't we promise to be there in the next year on September 2nd, but of course nobody went and did you have any cocktails that day? Oh, yes. I had a cocktail and I asked her fellow for some extra cherries and evidently just cherries might have been soaked in the whiskey or whatever. I was so sick that night. That was it. I was drinking too much anymore and you haven't really been drinking much after that. Oh, no, you weren't a big party girl when you're younger. No way. No way. No way. No way now, but you were a good cook cook cook. All right, my mother taught us everything about cooking. And did you have a lot of boyfriends when you

21:32 We're Young I like boys I like boys from when I was very young anybody special when you were real young you mean when I was really young before you married my dad

21:48 Oh, I just had normal boyfriends in high school.

21:54 And then you met my father and yes, I met him skating cuz we skated a lot in those days and I met him and he came out to see me on his bicycle many times and my mother was not didn't really approve of him, but

22:14 That's the way it was, but I went to high school having boyfriends and I went through training having boyfriends.

22:23 And then you married my dad. Yes, and he we were divorced after us kids and then you married bill. That's right, but it took a long time and I was married to your father for 22 years and it really wasn't too successful at the end. I didn't feel that I should stay the rest of my life.

22:51 In that situation, but if you think about it today, what does your future hold now? What what do you look forward to what kind of things do you look forward to hide it as long as everybody has something to look forward to they can keep going and I look forward to things like Thanksgiving. I don't look forward to Christmas much because I'm not home with them.

23:20 You can't always be with all of your children at Christmas. They want their own families and it's right so I'm very content where I am.

23:36 Your mother couldn't hear well, your mother was O'Malley death.

23:42 She was partly. Yes. She couldn't hear very well and we have all I have inherited that went. When did you first realize you were losing your hearing?

23:56 All when I was working in the hospital if I doctor mudded I couldn't understand him.

24:03 If people mother I can understand I can understand one to one very well, but it in a crowd forget it. Do you miss anything about hearing sure like what I miss it when everyone sitting around the table and the young people are talking so fast, and they don't talk loud and they don't enunciate.

24:29 Can you hear birds?

24:32 Birds I can hit Cod note so I can hit crows. I can't identify many bird calls, but I can hear quite a few with your hearing aids in. Yeah when my hearing isn't do you ever shut them off because you don't want to hear anyting, you know, we always turn the television down and put it on mute. No good. Let's see.

25:05 Picture of a nickname

25:07 How I guess I just had mimmy for a nickname how to get that nickname that was because my name was Miriam and they couldn't probably say it.

25:19 Did did your sister call you mommy? Yes, my sister call me Mimi My Mama. Call me meme.

25:28 And most people call me meme do they still do that today? Yes, my grandchildren. Call me Grammy Meme and that's it.

25:39 So you had three children Paul and Mark and then me and you Kathleen Kathleen. Do you remember what was going through your head when you first saw me? Oh, I said her a a little girl. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah how to choose my name well,

26:04 We tried to think of something would go well with you about last name Lafferty and I didn't want common names like everybody had and so I thought Kathleen would be a very nice name and my father-in-law Andrew Lafferty said to me afterwards. I'm glad you called her Kathleen. I had a sister Kathleen and I didn't even realize that out when we called you that.

26:35 Was I easy growing up or not? All very you are very easy to be with and you still.

26:45 Q q do you have any dreams for me any things you'd like me to L. I just think you're doing very well as you are. I couldn't expect anything better. Thank you. That's nice and

27:01 I know that you're proud of all of your children. I am I'm very proud of all of you when I see other people all the family should have a lots of problems. I am so proud of you you all good citizens you all do something for your country.

27:23 You do.

27:25 Town things

27:29 All of you have done things Paul. My son has been a Boy Scout leader for 25 years. It's amazing. Isn't it at least 25 years at least 25 years?

27:45 And they all of my family have done things Mac has done things with his grandchildren and children in different schools.

27:57 And done different things for the town and you have done much for your town.

28:05 We're real proud of you, too. I think you said a really good example for us. You always volunteered for things. You always were involved in the church right now. Did you always go to Sunday school? Did your dad go to church with you? My dad was a superintendent of Sunday school and he was very well liked in a very good man. He has started his education, you know Baptist Church in Smith Mills, and it finally became a Congregational Church and he is always going to church in. My mother had to my mother was a Methodist in Fall River and they will married in the Methodist Church.

28:52 So they were all church people really and if I look back through my other Generations, they most of them met at church functions my grandmother and grandfather both met at a church function at a church picnic or something like that.

29:15 And also my other grandmother and grandfather had a stretch function.

29:23 It's not strange so they were country people right? They lived out in the country. And well, that was all that was there probably wasn't much ya. Were you on are you a daredevil? No, no, no never afraid of anything when you are kid not really know. What was I afraid? Oh, I don't know if you were ever afraid of climbing on ladders or nothing. No, I could go anywhere.

29:51 Did you used to you used to go down to the farm? Is it at the farm with your grandpa? We had a not a real grandmother and grandfather, but my uncle's mother and father that we call Grandma and Grandpa because I Wrong grandparents are going on. These are the williston's. Yeah, the Williston shame we live they lived in temperature in Rhode Island. We went to the farm there and stayed two weeks every summer and I uncle was very good with me. He taught me many things. He let me climb way up on the top of the barn roof with him when he was shingling it.

30:35 I was AF when the dog had to be put to sleep. I wanted to go up and be with the dog.

30:44 And my uncle when they did that and I don't know anybody else that wanted to do that. How did they put him to sleep a veterinarian came and gave him a shot? And I took my grandpa will stand out into the hand yard when he killed him and he would let me hold the head while he chop.

31:10 The head off then I was to drop the ham and let it run around the yard and it did until it was clocked.

31:20 Did you find that fun or different or well I wanted to do it, but I think the nurse was probably a good profession for you.

31:34 So blood never bothered you never did nothing like that about killing the hens. Do you have did you ever take any trips with your with your father and your family when you were little? Yes, we went to Worcester Mass up to my great uncle and aunt's house and we would stay there for a week or two and we had a very nice time there. They live top of the hill a top of a high heel and after my father died my sister and I continue to go there every summer for two weeks and they were a good influence on us.

32:25 They were very religious people too. And one of the things they said was that grandfather had the strongest voice in church, and he could sing louder than anyone else.

32:42 That's nice. And and so you had a car and you would go by car yet. We went by car. Do you have any funny family stories that you can remember?

32:55 Such as what, I don't know. How about tell us about your sister locking you in the chicken coop all yeah, we had a hand house of course and it only had a little hole for the hands to go in the bottom and a door to get in. So evidently. My mother has sent us out sent me out to get the eggs.

33:23 Once a day you went out to the hen house and gather the eggs and I got in the hen house and my sister turn the little handle and lock me in there and said lay a ragman rag. Well, I didn't but evidently my mother came and let me out. Sounds like yeah. Yeah. Oh she had quite a time. We also had a sand pile is you play them and she and one of her friends took eggs from The Henhouse and mix it with sand to make cakes and those cakes came out very nicely.

34:11 Good. Let's see.

34:16 There any words of wisdom you would like to pass on to your children and grandchildren and now you have two great-granddaughters? Yes. I think everybody should try to get friends have friends friends are very good to you.

34:35 The good for you

34:38 Family is is fine. But you do need some friends and also you are to be optimistic.

34:48 I've known so many people that have problems mentally and everything because they're not optimistic. They're not looking for the good side in life.

35:00 And you do I hope I do my thang you just automatically see it sometimes you know.

35:09 Did

35:11 Do you have any regrets? No, not many. I I think of how old I am now. I may be 5 I've had a really good life. I be happy.

35:25 Whatever happens it doesn't make any difference. I don't dread death. I would like to just fall asleep. Like everybody else. Would do you believe in god, of course?

35:39 Everybody should and do you believe that there's life after this Goliad? Yeah, I do. I believe we'll see a beautiful place and we'll have

35:52 Get together with all of our old friends and people that we've known before we don't know how they look they won't probably look like they did when we last saw him, but they may be better. You'll know them in your heart to I bet yeah. Yeah, we always talked about that how to recognize you in heaven is will put a paw like our kitty cat used to put his paw on my eye. And so I it's what we said how will recognize you and having you put your par on my I anything else that you wanted specifically say to anybody.

36:41 Not particularly, particularly. I love all my family and of course, I love my new grandchildren and great-grandchildren and so far they've all been so good to me and you are you're very lucky now you where do you go now? Where do you live now? And what do you like to do now? I am living in Cape Cod Cottage that we've had for many many years The Cottages old everything in it is old. My people are old but it's home. It's where I like to be and I can be there in the winter because there's doesn't have permanent heat. So I do go to Florida for the winter and I have many good friends down there. I have been going for about 18 years and most of them have been going for the show.

37:41 Game time we've had a good group together. I have been painting for years. I've been started painting when I was maybe in second grade. My sister had her tonsils out.

37:57 At home and my father's mother fathers.

38:04 Boss and his wife came and they brought her a present and they saw me painting by the sewing machine and I was painting the sun with some just cheap watercolors the next day. They came back with a beautiful set of watercolor paints. It was a big set like this and I was amazed because I didn't know what to do with it. It was too nice. Well, eventually I paint it a little bit and colored like most children then we went to school and in 7th grade we had to paint or do a truck drawing and I do chalk drawing of a big sailboat because you're my family we had had a lot of whale has

39:01 People that worked on whaling boats captains and so far and I did a picture of a sailboat called the red star.

39:10 Well the teacher in 7th grade took up pictures and hung them up on the wall way up high.

39:20 We went home for lunch because in those days you went home for lunch. Are you took your lunch to school but a school was not very far from home so I could have to walk home for lunch. I came back and the teacher said there was a man that came in his it would like to buy your painting.

39:43 Ask your mother if you can sell your painting he will give you $6. This was 1937.

39:53 I went home and asked my mother.

39:57 Told her about it. She said with somebody else wants it. We better keep it.

40:05 Whatever happened to it. We brought it home. I brought it home. We hung out in the house. It had no fixative on it. It had nothing on it the truck drawings faded away eventually and that was it by later on in life. I started to pain and then when Kathy my daughter was in high school. I took some lessons up in Maine from a good artist and I want to know how to do water that look like water. It didn't look like just ups and downs. So I've been painting ever since when I go to Florida. I have six friends that come and we have a painting every Monday morning and we have had this group for at least 12 years and they're all good friends.

41:03 That's great. Thank you so much, Mom. I'm so glad you were able to do this with me.

41:12 And I know you're very glad that it's probably all over but you didn't have much chance to talk and I'm interviewing you because I think you're one of the most important people in my life and you're one of my best friends and you no longer much. Thank you. I love you, Mom. Love you, too.